Ukraine Passes Language Law Opposed by President-Elect

Law further alienates Russian-speaking minority

In a move which was immediately criticized by President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine’s parliament passed a law making Ukrainian the only official language in the country, making it the mandatory language for all public sector workers.

The law was long championed by outgoing President Petro Poroshenko, who intends to sign it into law before he leaves office. The law is primarily seen as a way to spite the Russian-speaking minority in the country’s east.

Zelenskiy, a comedian on Russian-language programming before hi rise to power, was deeply critical of the law, saying Ukraine should be trying to consolidate society instead of further dividing it.

The new law appears not only to promote Ukrainian, but to deliberately single out Russian for lower status. For instance, while the law mandates computer software to be in Ukrainian, it also allows interfaces in English, or any official language within the European Union. That adds 24 more language options, but not Russian.

The first push by Kiev to downgrade the status of Russian language was a big part of why the Russian-speaking east rebelled, and that region remains broadly independent of the government. The law almost certainly makes reconciliation less likely.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of